(This story is posted with the assistance of Hannah’s parents, as told by her father, Matthew Lind.)
Hannah is a GHS students who has Down Syndrome, and a limited vocabulary that is sometimes hard for people to understand. Hannah has been in the regular choirs since middle school. We have always found the directors open and supportive of having her participate. She really loves being in choir, and usually identifies it as her favorite class.
Hannah started participating in ISSMA last year, largely because of her paraprofessional, Ledia Olivera. Ledia saw no reason why Hannah should not participate in ensemble contest, and got a group of girls who agreed to sing with her. This year, she had Hannah write down names of girls she would like to sing with. Ledia helped to gather these girls together, and they all agreed to sing with her and Katya for ISSMA. Ledia said that the group got a little bigger because several girls who heard about it wanted to join. In fact, she said there are several other girls who said they wanted to be included in the group next year.
Mr. Snyder (GHS choir teacher) helped the group pick out a piece that he felt was a good match. Kathy and I have found him to be one of the most welcoming directors in terms of Hannah’s participation in choir.
For Hannah, choir is the one activity where she can feel truly integrated with the “normal” students at the High School. People who watch her in concerts often comment on how well she handles herself, and how attentive she is in formal situations. For me, one of the most heart-warming aspects of this is watching how other girls in the choir interact with Hannah. Several of them “take her under their wings,” making sure that she is in place and helping her with entrances and exits. I noticed this last Saturday at ISSMA, where the girls were checking in with her, and helping her through the transitions. One of them came up very excitedly to tell her, “Hannah, we got a gold!,” and give her a high-five.
We are very pleased with the way that Goshen Community Schools has handled inclusiveness, from the administrators to the support staff. Thanks to her teachers, and the special education department, which has not taken a “cookie cutter” approach to Hannah’s curriculum, over the years we have been able to experiment with a mix of regular and special education classes. We feel that approach is a positive situation for other students, who have a chance to come in contact with peers who are different from themselves. And for the students who are able to show kindness and acceptance, they become models for their friends and other students of how to interact who those who have differences.
Below are a few photos from ISSMA at Fairfield last Saturday. Girls besides Hannah: Jacquelyn, Megan, Becca, Amelia, Emily, and Katya, and Mr. Snyder.
—Matthew Lind, Hannah’s father
Our GCS thanks go out to Hannah’s family, for sharing their GHS experiences with us. We love to hear stories about our caring, flexible teachers and our wonderful students who value each other and treat each other with kindness.